In the fall of his freshman year, Gabriel Martin ‘18 was excited to learn about plants. “I just wanted to walk the woods and identify every plant I saw. And then I sat in my first systematics class and I thought: ‘well that's out the window.’ There’s a lot—a lot—to know.”

Three years later, he’s making progress. A plant biology major, Martin has a work-study job in UVM’s Pringle Herbarium photographing and barcoding plants for the herbarium’s expanding online catalog. On this summer day, Martin is working with specimens from the geranium family, some of which were collected in Tunisia before the First World War. “I’m also a history minor,” he says, “It’s cool to connect the locations and times of the collection to world events.” He holds up one of the old sheets. “This is from 1910 and it makes me feel connected to that time.”

Martin has a growing interest in ethnobotany and the medical applications of plants. He’s considering going to graduate school to pursue a career in herbal medicine. He laughs and smiles at how far he has come. “At first I wasn't going to go to college. My guidance counselor kind of talked—really tricked—me into it,” he says. “Basically, my high school wouldn’t let me graduate unless I applied to college. So I was like ‘alright I guess I'll do it.’” Now he loves UVM, he says, and credits his advisor, professor of plant biology Jeanne Harris, with guiding him well. “She always helps me out, makes sure I’m in the classes I need,” he says. “She’s an excellent teacher and all-around good person. If you’ve got a problem with Jeanne, you got a problem with me.”

Gabriel Martin '18 and geranium specimen

Gabriel Martin places another dried geranium under the bright glare of a lightbox and snaps the camera. A high-resolution image appears on his computer screen and he turns to the next sheet. “I love to learn. And that’s a life-long commitment,” he says. “I can’t wait to be an old guy running around the woods, looking at plants. I’ll know a lot then, if not everything.”


Joshua E. Brown